Trophee de France 2016 Champions Javier Fernandez, Evgenia Medvedeva, Gabriella Papadakis/ Guillaume Cizeron
Trophee de France 2016 Pairs Champions Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot
Three World Champions strike gold at Grand Prix in France

The French Grand Prix returned to Paris after a hiatus of two years, but without the former title sponsor Eric Bompard. The good old multifunctional arena in Paris-Bercy, host of many skating events such as numerous Grand Prix events, the very first Grand Prix Final in 1996, the World Championships in 1989, had been completely renovated. Unfortunately, it is now very somber and dark with black seats. But at least it is cleaner now. The event was run with the usual French “laisser-faire” that can be charming but sometimes gets annoying, when for example the dining room closes without notice half an hour before schedule and some people including Ladies champion Evgenia Medvedeva don’t get dinner. A big advantage is that the hotels are next door and no issues with transportation can arise. But professional thieves operate in the hotels and stole the bag of a judge with documents, cash and his phone from his table in the breakfast room while he got himself a coffee. In past years for example, the laptop computer of an event official had been stolen at the reception while he was checking out, the handbag of another official also disappeared from the breakfast room and several years ago the backpack of the author of this article was stolen as well at the reception.


The competition overall was interesting with some highlights and some lows. The top favorites - three reigning world champions as well as the Pairs world bronze medalists - came out on top. The Men were strong at this fourth Grand Prix of the season, the Ice Dance event was very good, there were some exciting performances in the Ladies (but also some disappointments). The Pairs could have been better.


World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva reigns in Paris

Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia once more reigned supreme and won the Ladies competition at Trophee de France with 21 points to spare. Two newcomers joined her on the podium in their debut at the senior Grand Prix series: Maria Sotskova of Russia, who took the silver medal, and Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi, who captured the bronze.


Medvedeva was off to a good start in the short program, once again showing off her amazing consistency and nailing all her elements effortlessly – the triple flip-triple toe, triple loop, double Axel. The World and European Champion improved her personal best and now stands at 78.52 points and it probably won’t take long until she will break Mao Asada’s record score of 78.66 points, set at the 2014 World Championships. Medvedeva already holds the record score for the free skating with 150.10 points, achieved at the ISU World Championships 2016.


Although the Russian skater was flawless in her practices, she is not a robot and took an unexpected fall in the free skating on the triple Lutz. Her six other triples were clean, the spins and footwork excellent as always, the performance to “Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close”, dedicated to the victims of terrorism, was strong overall. Medvedeva is a little actress on the ice and considering that exactly one year ago on November 13, terrorists had attacked Paris this program and its theme were very up-to-date. The Muscovite, who will turn 17 years on November 19, was “absolutely not satisfied” with her performance. “I was too slow, not only on Lutz, where the lack of speed was the reason for the error, but in general. I will go back and work on it for the Grand Prix Final. Mistakes push you further and make you work harder”, Medvedeva said. “I also need to improve my component score”, she added.


Sotskova was solid in her short and also long program to “Adagio” by Alfred Schnittke, where she portrays a butterfly. She landed six clean triples and only underrotated a triple Lutz. However, the World Junior silver medalist looked cautious and was very focused on the jumps. “My butterfly was not free today”, the 16-year-old admitted. “I was terribly nervous, even more so than before the short program. I really need to think about how to deal with my nerves”, she explained.


Higuchi, a dynamic 15-year-old from Tokyo sat in fifth after short as she had doubled her flip. In her long to “Sheherazade”, the two-time World Junior bronze medalist completed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination as well as three more clean triples, she only popped one Lutz. Higuchi won her first Grand Prix medal with 194.48 points. “This is my first senior Grand Prix and I was aiming for the podium. I am happy that I achieved that. In the short program I popped my flip, but I was happy that I did the triple Lutz-triple toe and I was pleased with my score. Today I popped one jump again, but overall the performance was good and I’m happy with my medal. I try to skate with more expression, move my arms and have bigger movements”, the teenager said.


Canadian Gabrielle Daeleman shone in the short, cracked the 70 points for the first time and skated clean. Unfortunately, she could not hold together it in the long. A hard fall on her opening triple toe (planned in combination with another triple toe) threw her off and she made errors on other jumps to drop from second to fourth at 192.10 points. So Youn Park of Korea turned in two solid performances, she only missed a triple Lutz in the free, to place fifth. Frenchwoman Laurine Lecavelier looked out strong in the short with a clean program, but struggled with some elements in the free and came sixth. Three-time World Champion Mao Asada of Japan and Gracie Gold (USA) were not in shape. Gold popped two jumps in the short and fell twice in the long to finish eighth. Asada, who suffered from knee pain and was not able to practice much, doubled four jumps in her free skating and was ranked ninth.


World Champion Javier Fernandez takes second Grand Prix title of the season

Spain’s Javier Fernandez won his second Grand Prix gold medal in what was a strong Men’s competition at Trophee de France in Paris. The silver and bronze medals went to Denis Ten of Kazakhstan and Adam Rippon (USA).


Fernandez led after the short in spite of falling on the quad toe. But he reacted quickly and switched his combination to the Salchow. In his entertaining Elvis Presley long program, the two-time World Champion nailed three quads, but he fell on a triple Axel and doubled a flip.

“I feel a bit tired, it is the first time I did two competitions back to back. I was happy that I was able to perform not perfect, but really good. I just hope to go to the Grand Prix Final in a better shape and try to fight to be in the podium one more time, hopefully for a better medal in the past years”, Fernandez said. “I lost may balance on the entry, there is a change of edge. This is something that sometimes happens in practice, and there I would just not do it and go again, but in the middle of the program I have to go for the jump and I fell into the water (in one corner the ice was rather wet)”, the four-time European Champion explained about his fall on the Axel. Fernandez also spoke about his autobiography that has been published in Spain. “I hope to inspire other people with my story”, he noted.


Ten has struggled with numerous injuries over the years and also had to withdraw from Skate America. His practices were on and off in Paris, but the Olympic bronze medalist did it, when it counted, which is in the program. The 2015 Four Continents Champion turned in two clean performances with one quad toe each to take the second Grand Prix medal of his career. “I have two world medals and an Olympic medal, but this is only my second Grand Prix medal”, the Kazakh skater said with a smile. “I’m just glad that I’m back on the ice. Last year I was competing, but in fact I missed basically the whole season (because of injuries). It was very important for me to start the season despite all the obstacles with a positive spirit and strong skate. I felt that I did a good progress not result-wise, but training-wise. This will lead me to further development”, Ten shared. He is now training mostly with Nikolai Morozov and obviously enjoys the new input. The short program is a modern arrangement of “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev, the long is the classical “Tosca”, and both were skated with emotion and expression.


When Rippon landed his first quadruple toeloop in competition in his free skating it was a big step for him. The U.S. Champion did not lose his concentration and went on to hit eight triples including two Axels in his program to “The Arrival of the Birds” form the “Crimson Wings” soundtrack and “O” by Coldplay. The reward was a new personal best of 182.28 points in the long program. Rippon, who celebrated his 27 th birthday on Friday, also was strong in the short which was clean but without a quad attempt. In the short, the Skate America bronze medalist was ranked fourth, but he jumped on to the podium on Saturday, making himself an extra little birthday present. “I feel like a huge weight is off my back landing the quad today. So nobody can say that I never landed it“, Rippon said. And it wouldn’t be Adam if there weren’t some fun comments.” The whole time I was skating I was wondering if the pigeon that lives in this arena was going to come out. I saw it yesterday during the ladies short program and I thought, that pigeon better fly during my program, but no pigeon, just me”, he said. The pigeons in the rink at Bercy are legendary, they are known for even sitting on the ice during performances. Even though the building was completely renovated, the pigeons are still there. They didn’t seem to enjoy the Men’s event, though, they came back for the Ladies later, not sitting on the ice, but flying through the rink.


Nathan Chen (USA) again went for five quads (four different ones – Lutz, flip, toe and Salchow). He landed the Lutz (with a triple toeloop for combination), the flip and a toeloop (with his hand down), but fell on another toe and the Salchow. However, skating is not only about quads and the component score suffered as Chen was focused on the jumps and so he slipped from second to fourth. In the short, the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion had landed the quad Lutz and flip as well. Takahito Mura (JPN) finished fifth and Jorik Hendrickx (BEL) came sixth.


Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot win Pairs event in spite of mistakes

Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot of Germany followed up on their victory from Rostelecom Cup last week and also won the Trophee de France Saturday in Paris. However, the European silver medalists were far from being perfect and Savchenko also sprained her ankle when she crashed on the throw triple Axel. Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov secured the silver medal and kept their chances for a spot in the Grand Prix Final. The bronze went to Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres of France, who came from fourth place in the Short Program.


Savchenko/Massot opened their romantic program to “Lighthouse” by Patrick Watson with their trademark huge triple twist, but then Massot made errors on the solo jumps – he touched down on the triple Salchow and doubled the toeloop. Unfortunately, Savchenko hurt her right ankle when she fell on the throw triple Axel. “I felt a sharp pain, but I tried to continue (the best I could), I just had to”, she said. While the pair elements such as lifts and spins were strong, the couple decided not to go for the quad throw Salchow under these circumstances, and Savchenko stepped out of the landing of a triple throw Salchow. In the mixed zone the usually so tough pair skater was in tears and could hardly speak to reporters. A bit later, she felt better, but was limping at the victory ceremony and had to withdraw from the exhibition gala. “We need to check out the injury at home to find out whether the injury is serious or if it is only a strain that will be okay after a few days”, coach Alexander Koenig said. Especially the French-born Massot looked very nervous in the long program, but he pointed out that he enjoyed skating in France again. “I think we got a very good welcome here, it was amazing to skate here. It was really hard to do two competitions in a row, physically, but more so in the head and I did bad mistakes in the beginning of the program, but I came back in the program and we did good lifts”, he noted.


The World bronze medalists had a narrow lead over Tarasova/Morozov in the short program. The side by side triple Salchow had worked, but Savchenko stumbled on the throw triple Axel and had to deal with a costume malfunction when her dress opened during the lift. “I have always a problem with something”, she sighed. “I was surprised when the zipper broke and I was just hoping that the dress would not come off entirely.” (201.59 points)


Tarasova/Morozov turned in a clean short except for her slightly two-footing the landing of the throw triple loop. The European bronze medalists could have seized their chance to win in the free skating, but although they landed a quadruple twist and made only one major mistake – Morozov doubled the toeloop – overall they looked a bit rough around the edges in their routine to “Music Was My First Love” by John Miles. “I can’t say that this was really good, there were mistakes, but overall we’re happy with the result. I hope we’ll make it to the Grand Prix Final, that was our primary goal here”, Morozov said. “The short program we skated better here than at Skate America and we got a personal best. The free we also skated better, but it wasn’t yet ideal”, he added. (206.94 points)


James/Cipres, who stood in fourth place following the short program moved up with a strong long to “The Sound of Silence” that included a triple twist, side by side triple toe-double toe and triple Salchow as well as a throw quad Salchow, although James two-footed. She also stumbled on the throw triple flip that she does with both arms over her head.


 “We are very happy with our performance today. It was hard for us to go back to skating after Skate America, which was a big disappointment. We had to fight and to work hard every day and today we fight on the ice. I am happy to be on the podium here in Paris and to be back here”, Cipres commented. “The quad is not easy and we’re taking risks and when girls fall, it is hard. But we need to make the sport better”, he noted. (198.58 points)


Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert of Russia were ranked third with a good short, but in the free he fell on the side by side triple toe and the Russians only went for a double Salchow. They also looked a bit slow in their program to “Cry Me a River”. They dropped to fourth at 192.56 points. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) finished fifth (176.18 points) ahead of Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer from Austria with 145.01 points.


World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron superior in Ice Dance

Two-time and reigning World Champions Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France won the dance event with almost 20 points to spare ahead of Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) and Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier of Canada at Trophee de France in Paris.


Papadakis/Cizeron already came with a strong lead from the short dance to Blues and Swing. The short dance and the free dance to “Stillness”, “Oddudua”, and “Happiness Does Not Wait” both looked very smooth, the difficult elements seemed effortless. The European Champions collected excellent levels for their elements and totaled 193.50 points to take the third Grand Prix gold. “It was a hard summer, because the program took long to make, it was hard to make a decision about the program, but we’re happy the program is what it is today and we’re very happy about the performance”, Papadakis shared. The gold medal was a nice little extra birthday present for Cizeron, who turned 22 years old the day of the free dance. “I didn’t really realize it is my birthday, only when people started singing after our performance”, he said. “It was a very good performance. We were anxious to see what the reaction to our program would be. We’re happy that the audience got into the program”, he continued.


After silver at Skate America, Hubbell/Donohue knew they’ll probably need at least another silver to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. In the short dance Hubbell was a bit shaky and the US-dancers stood in third place, but their free dance, a love story to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Earned It” was very well skated and allowed them to move up to second place. Hubbell/Donohue had the same levels as Papadakis/ Cizeron – level four for the twizzles, spin and lifts and a level three for the step sequences.

It’s already our fourth competition this season. The beginning of the season was a bit rough, we lost some levels in competition and we didn’t really come out of the gate as strong as we wanted, but we’ve spent so much time and effort at home, I think we’ve worked the best we’ve ever worked in the last two or three weeks”, Hubbell said. “We really feel the momentum and we hope we can we’ve done now to make the Final for the second year in a row which is a huge accomplishment and it was our goal for the Grand Prix season. I think we’re just excited to go home and just continue this progress”, she continued.


Gilles/Poirier were ranked fourth in the short dance as she stumbled on a twizzle, but the Canadians came back strong with their characteristic Argentine Tango “La Buena Onda”.


Two bronze medals might not be enough for the Final, though. “We may not reach the Final, but we’ve been in this situation before and we’ve come back stronger. We’re motivated to go home and work out some kinks”, Gilles said. “We’re very proud of what we did today. We didn’t let the big mistake that I did yesterday defeat us. We know that we have two solid programs this season. Unfortunately, we didn’t do both solid this week. We know we have things to work on.“


Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia danced an upbeat Bollywood program, but Ilinykh fell on a transition, the two step sequence were rated a level two only plus they had a deduction for an extended lift. As a result, the Russians dropped from second to fourth. Israel’s Isabella Tobias/Ilia Tkachenko produced a smooth dance to Tchaikovski’s “Nutcracker”, but the footwork merited only a level two and one. Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac of France had a solid debut on the senior Grand Prix and finished sixth.


This article partially has been published also on Golden Skate.